What Is The Role Of Hydrogen In Biden’s Infrastructure Plan?

August 11, 2021

As bipartisan infrastructure talks continue in the U.S., one thing is clear: Increasing infrastructure spending has never been more critical. From core items like roads and bridges to cybersecurity, the U.S. will need to invest significantly if it hopes to maintain its position in the global economy in the face of an ascendant China.

Energy independence — specifically, clean energy independence — is among the most critical components of a comprehensive U.S. infrastructure plan, but it’s been a talking point for both parties for decades. With so much on the table, what role should hydrogen energy play in infrastructure talks, and what stake do American businesses have in it?

President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, announced on March 31, initially proposed spending $2 trillion on U.S. infrastructure over eight years on a wide range of projects. This includes, according to the original proposal, “$35 billion in the full range of solutions needed to achieve technology breakthroughs that address the climate crisis and position America as the global leader in clean energy technology and clean energy jobs.” It goes on to highlight hydrogen as part of the plan’s “climate-focused research” and “climate R&D priorities.”

Beyond the brief mention in the White House fact sheet, however, few additional details were provided. On April 7, 10 companies sent a two-page letter to the White House urging the U.S. government to establish a clear hydrogen strategy.

“Investments in U.S. infrastructure and workforce will be key to unlocking a more sustainable and equitable future for all Americans,” the letter states. “Hydrogen can enable large-scale, efficient renewable energy integration into the nation’s power grids, decarbonize important sectors like infrastructure, transportation, and building heating, and utilize the nation’s existing pipeline infrastructure for distribution.”

While talks between American politicians drag on, China has made significant progress. It has included hydrogen as one of its “six industries of the future” in its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), indicating that the country will invest significantly in hydrogen innovation and development. According to Chinese media group Caixin, the China Hydrogen Alliance estimates that “the output value of the country’s hydrogen energy industry will reach [$152.6 billion]” by 2025 and that the country’s hydrogen demand “will reach 35 million tons, accounting for at least 5% of China’s energy system” by 2030.

China is not alone. A February 2021 report released by the Hydrogen Council developed in collaboration with McKinsey & Company noted that “as of early 2021, over 30 countries have released hydrogen roadmaps,” adding that “no less than 228 large-scale projects have been announced along the value chain, with 85% located in Europe, Asia and Australia.” The report goes on to say that “hydrogen can become the most competitive low-carbon solution in more than 20 applications by 2030, including long haul trucking, shipping and steel.” That the United States currently oversees — at most — 15% of these projects should be worrying, particularly in light of the devastating climate change-related disasters that continue to plague American cities.

Read more here.

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